By Alistair Farrow
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Algeria sees protests, arrests and debate about how to beat the state

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Issue 2654
Solidarity with arrested socialists in Algeria
Solidarity with arrested socialists in Algeria (Pic: Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs)

The Algerian regime is using both concessions and repression in an effort to stabilise its rule. But huge protests and strikes continue.

Tens of thousands came out in Algiers last Friday to demand more than military ruler general Gaid Salah is offering. And thousands came out in other cities across the country, including Constantine, Annaba, Oran, Tizi Ouzou and elsewhere.

The protests were still large despite it being Ramadan.

Chants against the army were prominent. “Algeria is a republic, not a barracks,” chanted some.

The ruling class has scheduled an election for 4 July, but many protesters see it as a stitch-up.

Many people are demanding independently-run elections without the involvement of the interior ministry or the interference of the military. But it is unlikely Gaid Salah will allow this.

The question of how to tackle the power of the state is increasingly coming to the front of public debate.

There was a small taste last week of the ruling class’s strategy. One strand is that some of those most associated with the old regime are targeted.

Socialist Louisa Hanoune has been arrested
Socialist Louisa Hanoune has been arrested

Key figures of former ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s corrupt clique were rounded up. Spymaster Muhammad Medienne has been thrown in jail after 25 years lurking in the shadows of the state.

And Bouteflika’s brother Said has also been sent down, alongside other corrupt figures.

The charge was of “prejudice to the authority of the state and the military establishment.”

An academic from Algiers, Ismael Meraaf, said, “These steps by the military are presented as being in line with the people’s demands. But Salah was himself part of this group of criminals and protected them.”

Algeria’s fights for freedom
The modern history of Algeria
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And in addition the army is taking the opportunity to get rid of its opponents. Workers Party leader Louisa Hanoune has been arrested on the same charges as Said Bouteflika.

The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights argued she had been arrested after appearing as a witness at a military court. “This case of ‘conspiracy against the army’ seems like a good excuse for silencing all dissenting voices,” it said in a statement.

In another sign of the state seeking to limit the spread of the movement, some state-controlled media outlets did not cover Friday’s protests. They had covered all of the previous ones.

The regime is beginning to offer up alternative candidates for the 4 July elections. But so far its attempts to do this have been rejected.

People also protested internationally, including in London. Rabie, one of the organisers of the London protest, argued that the memories of Algeria’s brutal recent past means people will not let the military rule unopposed.

“In the 1990s they took power from the people and committed many atrocities,” he said. “The people will not allow this to happen again.”

The Algerian ruling class is attempting to control the movement from below by placating it. This strategy has failed so far, but repression and suffering could follow if its rule is allowed to continue. The protests and strikes must continue if the regime is to fall.


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